Marion Pritchard, a woman credited with saving dozens of Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, has died at 96. Her son, Arnold Pritchard, said Wednesday by telephone that his mother died Dec. 11 from cerebral arteriosclerosis in Washington.
Pritchard, born Marion Philippina van Binsbergen, was a 19-year-old social work student when Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940. In an interview published in the volume “Voices From the Holocaust” by Harry James Cargas, Pritchard said the “crucial moment” when she committed herself to fighting Nazi persecution came in 1942, when she witnessed the liquidation of a home for Jewish children. She saw two women try to stop the soldiers from throwing the children into the truck, only to be put in the truck themselves.
The Washington Post reports that with about 10 friends, Pritchard helped obtain false identity documents and hiding places to help Jews evade arrest. She also performed what was known as the “mission of disgrace,” falsely declaring herself to be a baby’s unwed mother to hide the child’s Jewish identity.
For nearly three years, Pritchard helped hide a Jewish man, his two sons and infant daughter in a country home where they could slip beneath the floorboards in 17 seconds. After a raid, a Dutch policeman returned to the home and discovered the hiding spot, but Pritchard fatally shot him before he could make an arrest. She said an undertaker buried the policeman’s body with another body in a coffin.
“I would do it again, under the same circumstances,” she told an interviewer years later, “but it still bothers me.”
Pritchard was said to have aided as many as 150 people, including many children, but she insisted that she couldn’t have done it without help from others.
She later became a United Nations social worker in displaced-persons camps and met her husband, Anton Pritchard, a former U.S. Army officer. They later lived in New York and Vermont, where she ran a psychoanalysis practice for decades.
In 1981, the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel recognized Pritchard as “righteous among the nations,” a title for gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.